A 3D-printed artificial reef near the mouth of Bath Creek near Bayview is the newest addition to the Pamlico River.
The project is designed to provide a thriving habitat for fish and other marine life and took eight years to complete. It is a joint effort between the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina (CCA NC) and the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), and represents an important step in the use of adaptive infrastructure technology.
Natrx, based in Raleigh, designed and produced the concrete reef modules specifically for the local climate and river habitat. Using a new type of 3D printing technology called “dry forming”, the manufacturing process creates naturalistic structures with curved surfaces and textures conducive to sustaining aquatic life. The crevices and holes in the sand and cement structures provide refuge for regionally important fish species such as striped bass and speckled trout.
“I think it will bring more anglers to our area as the fish seem to be attracted to these types of structures,” said Bath City Manager Bubs Carson. “Every time people use our boat ramps, buy fuel and eat at our restaurants, it’s good for our local economy. I also think it will give our local anglers another option when they don’t want to travel to Morehead City or the Sound to fish. The more habitat there is, the more use there is.
One hundred reef cubes, each measuring 3 feet by 3 feet and weighing about 1,850 pounds, were barged in and deployed at the Bayview Artificial Reef site located about 100 yards from shore near the mouth of Bath Creek.
The materials used in reef modules are commonly used in marine applications and are known to attract oysters and mussels, as well as crustaceans, invertebrates and other food chain organisms. The goal is to improve biological productivity and establish a breeding reservoir that can revitalize an entire ecosystem. Improved fish stocks also provide an economic boost to the community through increased recreational fishing.
The Bayview Reef site encompasses 1.8 acres underwater. The reef modules are spaced 10 feet apart in rows, with 40 feet between each row. Spacing allows multiple boats to fish the area without crowding. The reef is a popular spot for local anglers and these improvements will help ensure the site will last for generations to come. “Our hope is that this is just the beginning of an ongoing partnership with the NC DMF that will result in more habitat improvements on the North Carolina coast,” said Bobby Rice, vice- Chairman of the Board of CCA NC for Habitat. “We want to do our part to help improve our coastal ecosystem with the construction of more reefs, including oyster reefs and ARs for recreational fishermen.”
Bayview will be one of 25 estuarine artificial reefs maintained by DMF. The department’s reef programs receive funding from the North Carolina General Assembly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration Program, the North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License Grant Program, and donations. private.